Life isn’t over, it actually has just begun.

I am no longer playing college softball and it’s going to be okay (this took me a long time to come to terms with). I played since I was 6 years old and worked every day for over 12 years for something.

I thought this was my dream and fantasized like crazy over it. Everybody who knew me knew that the words “Liv” and “softball” went together. It was what I had always done and what people expected me to do. Softball was my identity. I was "Liv, the girl who played softball" and did not know how to be anything else.

I was busy every weekend because I always had some tournament six-plus hours away that my super supportive parents were driving me to.

Don’t ask me if I am going to the football game Friday night, or that party afterward because you know what the answer is. Sorry, best friend, I can’t celebrate your birthday, I have practice.

As a family, we turned our vacations into softball trips and if you haven’t gotten the vibe by now, my whole life revolved around this little yellow ball. And I loved it. I absolutely loved it… then

Having a passion for something and working towards a dream, dedicating countless hours to a sport, makes you feel like you have a purpose. I would never take back the car rides with my parents who I became so close with since we drove countless hours a week together.

Or the far away tournaments that we turned into mini family vacations. We always made the most of it. I am forever thankful for the best friends and memories I have made all because of softball, including the people I would have never met and now I have friends for life because of the sport.

In 8th grade I planked on the Disney Wide World of Sports sign, every summer of high school I spent time in Colorado visiting national parks and white water rafting. I spent birthdays at the ballfield. I collected all my Rising Stars bracelets.

I looked forward to team meals, I watched my brand new puppy chased after foul balls. I won a state championship with my high school team. I had a pile of 87 softball tournament t-shirts in my room when it was all over with.

I cried, I laughed and did it all because of softball. I would drive hours to meet up with strangers and throw on a uniform if it meant getting to play an extra game on an off weekend.

My parents were the ultimate example of sacrifice, support, and encouragement. They drove me 4 hours round trip almost every weekday in rush hour traffic to a practice or lesson, then woke up at the wee hours of the morning on the weekends to take me to games.

Mom and Dad, thank you so much. I am forever grateful for the opportunities you gave me and the time we spent together, I will never be able to put into words how much you did for me and how much I appreciate it.

High school came around and I got really serious about trying to earn a college scholarship. I became obsessed with it. At the age of 14, I was worried about student loans, debt, and whether or not a college wanted me or not. I stressed out, I worried, all I could focus on was this college athlete life, which people made up to be this once in a lifetime, amazing experience. I wanted that so bad. I signed with a college my senior year of high school and my expectations were higher than ever.

Well, freshman year of college hit and I entered loving the game and ended being confused as ever and not wanting to step back on the field.

You get the picture by now, I spent most of my life working and wishing for something that wasn’t what I had hoped it would be at all. College softball was nothing like what I was told, promised or shown. And inside I couldn’t accept that. I wanted it so bad to be what everyone told me it would be.

I had always played softball, my whole life was the game, how could I no longer like it? I simply did not have any motivation to play anymore. And I had an incredibly hard time accepting that I did not want to.

I had never known a life without softball. It was my identity and what people associated me with. If I didn’t play what would my parents and everyone else think? How do I just be a “normal” person? In the end, I had to be happy, it was me who had to get up and play every day, nobody else could do that for me.

Plans changed, lessons were learned, and I got a nice taste of what the real world was like. Not perfect, and certainly not fair.

At the end of four years, a college softball player’s eligibility ends. The game is over and real life begins, the statistics don’t matter, the wins and losses are irreverent, nothing can be taken with you.

When I thought about it like that, I realized I would be okay with being the Livia Chandler who did not live in cleats and play softball every day.

Softball didn’t define me. The people, the memories, and the experiences were what the whole process was for, not the game. It’s okay to not play softball, even when softball is the only thing you’ve ever done.

This game gave me exactly not what I thought, but what I needed. Just because you don’t wear a jersey anymore does not mean you’re a nobody, you turn into somebody.

You find your identity.

I learned life went on when things don’t go exactly how you planned. Guess what? It will be okay! I’m growing up because of it, working, and bettering all the relationships with the people in my life such as friends and family. Finally, having some time to breathe and do things for me.

Now it’s time to enjoy life and be content with where I am, not always looking at what’s ahead and wanting it to come too soon.

The cleats are hung up and I am truly at ease with it.